Disney has been known to make wishes come true for its audiences, but its cast members have had a few granted as well.
Brendon Sword started ice skating when he was only five years old, eventually getting into competitive skating as a teen. After skating for over eight years and suffering a few injuries, he searched for something new where he could continue his lifelong passion for skating and found it in “Disney on Ice,” which comes back to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Jan. 15-20.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be skating for ‘Disney on Ice,’” Sword told The Weekender in a recent phone interview. “I went to the shows when I was younger as well. I’d go with my family every year when it came to Hamilton (in Ontario, Canada) and I never thought when I was there watching a show that one day I would be out there on the ice skating around.”
The 26-year-old Canadian has been living those dreams all over the world since 2006. The Weekender talked to Sword about his global travels, his favorite characters to play, and why he couldn’t see himself doing anything else.
THE WEEKENDER: You started skating because you had a lot of energy as a kid. But why choose skating? What was the interest there?
BRENDON SWORD: I’m from Canada, and a lot of people think skating is a big thing up there, and there’s an ice rink, I’d say, about a two-minute drive from my house, so it was probably the most convenient thing for my parents to put me into, and obviously when I was five years old, I didn’t have a clue about anything, so my parents just started me in that and it kind of took off from there.
W: What made you stick with it?
BS: To be honest, I couldn’t even tell you that. Well, obviously I enjoyed it, still do, and I probably just had a good time doing it. It’s a good way to get out and have some fun and meet different people at the same time. A bunch of different reasons.
W: How did you end up getting cast in “Disney on Ice?”
BS: I looked online and kind of figured out how to do it. I had to send in a video audition of me skating and showing what I could do, and then from there I got an e-mail or a call asking me to come in for a live audition when the show came to Hamilton, which is close to my hometown. So I went in, and after one of the performances in Hamilton, there was a few other people auditioning as well and we got on the ice and went through the audition process of different exercises and stuff and just showing what we can do, and a couple months later, I got an e-mail with a job offer. That was back in 2006 when I started with the company.
W: Have you played different characters over the years?
BS: Yeah, I’m an ensemble skater with the show, so I do a variety of different things throughout the show, so it does change and keep me on my toes, that’s for sure.
W: What are your favorite parts to play?
BS: One of my favorites is probably the pirate in the “Peter Pan” section. It’s a really fun production number. It’s a lot of fun to skate, and it’s a really high-energy number as well, lots going on. I think it’s one of the audience favorites as well. Another good one is the “Under the Sea” production number in, obviously, “The Little Mermaid.” That’s another crowd favorite as well, and it’s a really good one to skate because there’s so much going on; there’s a lot of colors. It really does feel like you’re under the sea. We’ve got bubbles and all these different effects going on, so it really is a great production number as well.
W: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
BS: It’s a really fun job, and obviously there’s challenges to it, but I kind of just go out there and do what I can every show. We have three show days Saturdays a lot of the time, but we’re still trained and we’re all in such great shape that it doesn’t matter what show it is – we’re always giving 100 percent, and the show is always the same show. … We’ve just got to keep fit for what we do.
W: What is it like living on the road all over the world for much of the year?
BS: One of the greatest perks of this job is the traveling. Like you said, we do travel all over the world. I’ve done shows in over 40 countries, I believe. It’s such a great experience to be able to see all these different cultures and experience them and just see how the world is outside of North America. We have a cast of skaters from 11 different countries, so even the show has a lot of culture in it, and we do get to learn about them. We’re obviously all friends, we’re a big family, so we are learning about each other’s cultures. It is a really neat experience.
As far as traveling, we’re usually in a city for a week or two and we move, so we are constantly on the move, and… living out of a suitcase for a good portion of the year. It is an experience, that’s for sure. But this is my eighth year with the company, so… I found my way and I’m happy with how it is.
W: Your girlfriend is also in “Disney on Ice.” Does that make it easier, to travel with your significant other?
BS: Yeah, and it is such a great thing to be able to have that someone there to experience it all with. We have our friends on tour that are with us as well, but for me to be able to have someone that close and that special to me to experience it all with makes it that much better.
W: What are the audiences like in other countries? Is it a different experience outside North America?
BS: Disney is such a huge company and everybody knows Disney, so everyone’s excited for it. We always get a warm welcome wherever we are, but as I was mentioning, cultures are different, so some cultures react differently. When we play South America… the crowd is so loud when Mickey and Minnie and all the other characters are running out at the top of the show. There’s times when you can’t even hear the music playing because everyone’s cheering so loud. Not that we don’t get a good reaction here in the States or Canada or North America, we obviously do, but that’s just their culture. They’re very enthused down there and they love when shows like this come down there because they might not have the opportunity to go to a Disney park wherever they may be the in the world, so the fact that we’re bringing Disney to them is such a great experience for them.
W: For those who have seen the show before, what will be different about it this year?
BS: The show that’s going to be coming to town is called “Passport to Adventure,” so you have Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy taking the audience on an adventure through different Disney stories, and they start out in the African Savanna with “The Lion King” with Timon and Pumbaa, Simba and Nala, and then from there we travel under the sea with “The Little Mermaid” where we have Ariel and Sebastian and Flounder, and then we travel to Hawaii with Lilo and Stitch. That’s a great story about family and coming together, and then from there, Mickey and Minnie and the gang take us to London and Never Land with Peter Pan and the pirates, so it is an action-packed show.
There’s a lot going on, and it is something for everyone of all ages. It’s not just for parents to bring their children to the show. I’ve seen teenagers, I’ve seen parents, I’ve seen grandparents dancing around with all the music, so it is great to see everyone enjoying themselves.
W: Is that what has kept you coming back for eight years now?
BS: Absolutely. That’s the main thing that keeps me here. I love my job and being able to go out there and entertain and put smiles on thousands of people’s faces day in and day out. That’s such a rewarding job that I don’t think I could really find elsewhere.
It never gets old or tiring seeing everyone smiling and laughing and dancing.